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Un habitat de la fin de l'âge du Bronze entre lagune et fleuve : le site immergé de la Motte à Agde (Hérault, France)

Abstract : The site of la Motte 1 (Agde, Hérault), submerged in the minor bed of the Hérault River, is known for the discovery of rich female personal ornaments dated to the 8th century BC, associated with the remains of a settlement. We present here an overview of the results from recent excavations carried out at this site between 2011 and 2018. The issues related to the structuration of the site, to its duration and to its economy are addressed more particularly with the aim of giving thought to its place in the Late Bronze Age occupation of the lower Hérault valley. Core sampling carried out on each bank of the river has revealed the presence of an open lagoon from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. During its occupation the la Motte site was located on the edge of the lagoon and near to the mouth of the Hérault River. It is characterised by nearly 500 wooden piles divided into two main groups located on shoals, connected with numerous basalt blocks that may have contributed to the structuring of the occupation. Most of the wooden pieces that could be identified are vertical elements, piles and stakes that have been rammed into the ground. The pieces analysed reveal the use of a variety of species, reflecting the diversified use of distinct environments such as Mediterranean mixed oak forests and riparian forests. Most of these are therefore young woods, which were cut into green, unbarked wood. They reflect a simple exploitation of the forest environment in which wood is abundant. Nearly 80% of the wood identified at the site has been identified via its anatomy. This makes it possible to carry out a spatial analysis of the site’s structure based on the nature of the wood used. Several coherent alignments using a particular wood species could thus be identified. The surveys carried out made it possible to interpret them as bank support and protection systems using different techniques: arbutus wattle supported by oak piles and possible live willow piles. In the centre was a settlement that unfortunately has been severely eroded by the action of the river. However, remains of dwellings can be identified and these suggest a building plan. The analysis of the pottery remains found in stratigraphic surveys makes it possible to characterise the temporal evolution of the site from the end of the 10th century BC (Bronze final IIIa) to the beginning of the 8th century BC. This is confirmed by radiocarbon dating which has been the subject of Bayesian modelling. These data show a development of the site from south to north. Different shoreline stabilisation systems may have been successively implemented in response to the morphological evolution of the site and its environment. Data on the economy of the site (anthracology, carpology, paleoentomology and archaeozoology) indicate a permanent settlement occupied all year round, whose economy was primarily oriented towards agriculture and livestock. Deliberately located at the interface between two environments with different potentialities, its inhabitants built shoreline protection systems to ensure the long-term survival of the village for at least two centuries. The village was part of a settlement network regularly established along the Hérault River. It is also the eastern extension of the polarised lagoon settlements established around the Thau pond. Within this network, the littoral habitat of la Motte does not seem to constitute a site dependent on the settlements in elevated positions of the hinterland, as has been proposed in other Languedoc regions. Metalworking, on the other hand, seems to be an important activity. It is therefore legitimate to ask whether it may have played a role as a producer and distributor of bronze objects made, at least in part, with copper ore from the Cabrières district?
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Thibault Lachenal, Jean Gascó, Benoît Devillers, Laurent Bouby, Lucie Chabal, et al.. Un habitat de la fin de l'âge du Bronze entre lagune et fleuve : le site immergé de la Motte à Agde (Hérault, France). Entre terres et eaux. Les sites littoraux de l’âge du Bronze : spécificités et relations avec l’arrière-pays, pp.217-255, 2019, 2-913745-76-8. ⟨hal-02508663⟩

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